Eleven Madison Park Will Reopen with a Plant-Based Menu and Foodies Go Nuts
Have you ever watched a foodie go bananas? That's what happened when Eleven Madison Park, one of New York City’s most renowned dining establishments, announced it would reopen next month with a 100 percent plant-based menu. No more duck foie gras, no more poached lobster or eggs benedict with caviar. The restaurant had teetered on the edge of bankruptcy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the world-renowned legendary chef Daniel Humm has announced that he plans to reinvigorate the eatery with a fully plant-based menu when it reopens on June 10th. Eleven Madison Park will be abandoning its iconic honey lavender duck in favor of vegan courses that will likely change New York City's dining scene and the world's attention to plant-based fine food. Following weeks of rumors, Humm’s Michelin three-star restaurant confirmed the switch with a heartfelt announcement on the website, that EMP will return with a completely plant-based lineup.
"This past year, the world has changed, and so have we," read the announcement. "Please find a personal note from Chef Daniel Humm about our new chapter on our home page."
That Message from Chef Humm Read:
"I’m writing this nearly 15 months after we closed our dining room, and I’m so excited to share that we will be reopening Eleven Madison Park on June 10th.
"The pandemic brought our industry to its knees. With our closure, we laid off most of our team, and truly didn’t know if there was going to be an Eleven Madison Park.
"We kept a small team employed, and with their remarkable effort, in collaboration with the nonprofit Rethink Food, we prepared close to a million meals for New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity. Through this work, I experienced the magic of food in a whole new way, and I also saw a different side of our city – and today I love New York more than ever.
"What began as an effort to keep our team employed while feeding people in need has become some of the most fulfilling work of my career. It is a chapter in my life that’s been deeply moving, and for which I am very grateful.
"It was clear to me that this work must become a cornerstone of our restaurant.
"Therefore, we’ve evolved our business model. When we reopen Eleven Madison Park on June 10th, every dinner you purchase will allow us to provide five meals to food-insecure New Yorkers. This food is being delivered by Eleven Madison Truck, which is operated by our staff in partnership with Rethink Food. We’ve created a circular ecosystem where our guests, our team, and our suppliers all participate.
"In the midst of last year, when we began to imagine what EMP would be like after the pandemic – when we started to think about food in creative ways again – we realized that not only has the world changed, but that we have changed as well. We have always operated with sensitivity to the impact we have on our surroundings, but it was becoming ever clearer that the current food system is simply not sustainable, in so many ways.
"We use food to express ourselves as richly and authentically as our craft allows – and our creativity has always been tied to a specific moment in time. In this way, the restaurant is a personal expression in dialogue with our guests.
"It was clear that after everything we all experienced this past year, we couldn’t open the same restaurant.
"With that in mind, I’m excited to share that we’ve made the decision to serve a plant-based menu in which we do not use any animal products — every dish is made from vegetables, both from the earth and the sea, as well as fruits, legumes, fungi, grains, and so much more.
"We’ve been working tirelessly to immerse ourselves in this cuisine. It’s been an incredible journey, a time of so much learning. We are continuing to work with local farms that we have deep connections to, and with ingredients known to us, but we have found new ways to prepare them and to bring them to life.
"I find myself most moved and inspired by dishes that center impeccably prepared vegetables, and have naturally gravitated towards a more plant-based diet. This decision was inspired by the challenge to get to know our ingredients more deeply and to push ourselves creatively. It wasn’t clear from the onset where we would end up. We promised ourselves that we would only change direction if the experience would be as memorable as before.
"We asked ourselves: What are the most delicious aspects of our dishes, and how could we achieve the same level of flavor and texture without meat?
"It’s crucial to us that no matter the ingredients, the dish must live up to some of my favorites of the past. It’s a tremendous challenge to create something as satisfying as the lavender honey glazed duck, or the butter-poached lobster, recipes that we perfected.
"I’m not going to lie, at times I’m up in the middle of the night, thinking about the risk we’re taking abandoning dishes that once defined us.
"But then I return to the kitchen and see what we’ve created. We are obsessed with making the most flavorful vegetable broths and stocks. Our days are consumed by developing fully plant-based milk, butter, and creams. We are exploring fermentation, and understand that time is one of the most precious ingredients. What at first felt limiting began to feel freeing, and we are only scratching the surface.
"All this has given us the confidence to reinvent what fine dining can be. It makes us believe that this is a risk worth taking.
"It is time to redefine luxury as an experience that serves a higher purpose and maintains a genuine connection to the community. A restaurant experience is about more than what’s on the plate. We are thrilled to share the incredible possibilities of plant-based cuisine while deepening our connection to our homes: both our city and our planet.
"I believe that the most exciting time in restaurants is to come. The essence of EMP is stronger than it ever has been. We can’t wait to have you come and experience this new chapter of the restaurant. We look forward to sharing this journey with you."
Michelin 3-Star Restaurant Goes Plant-Based
EMP’s revival will become the only Michelin-star restaurant in NYC to serve an exclusively plant-based menu. Humm has said in the past that he eats 90 percent vegetarian, but this decision to transition his high-profile restaurant breaks with longstanding meat-based tradition in fine dining. EMP will become the only three Michelin three-star restaurant (out of the 132 worldwide) to feature a fully vegan menu, sending shockwaves through the international restaurateur community.
“When we set out on this journey we promised ourselves that we would only do this if the meal could be as delicious as it was before,” Humm said. "My goal is to create these beautiful dishes, give people beautiful experiences; an unexpected, surprising experience that makes you feel satisfied, as a meal with would.”
The chef faced swift criticism after this announcement, but he claims that the pandemic and his growing dedication to a more eco-conscious business model drove his decision to make the transition. He pointed out on an episode of the podcast How I Built This that the way he wishes to source food will be centered around sustainable practices. He wanted to create a menu that did not double back on his personal concerns regarding food ethics and environmental dangers, so he launched his vegan menu after months of experimentation.
“Our practices of animal production, what we’re doing to the oceans, the amount we consume: It is not sustainable,” Humm explained. “If Eleven Madison Park is truly at the forefront of dining and culinary innovation, to me it’s crystal clear that this is the only place to go next.”
Reservations become available on Tock at the link here on Monday, May 10th, at 9 am EST, and will be open for the month of June, the simple announcement read.
Humm and his restaurant staff developed the new menu in secret. The groundbreaking shift for the restaurant was even hidden from its meat suppliers. Notably secret and full-of-surprises, Humm wanted to debut his new creative menu in one movement. He noted that this period of time defined the most creative period of his career. He wanted to present a menu that perfectly mixed his restaurant's innovation with enlarged diet accessibility.
“With meat, there are only two or three things you can do,” Humm noted. “If you have beautiful carrots, the opportunities for creativity are limitless.” He continued by explaining the meticulously training that a cook needs to properly prepare a vegetable, saying that the labor to create a beautiful plant-based dish matches the money saved on the raw materials.
The restaurant scene in New York City was ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic with many businesses closing permanently or resorting to drastic changes in order to stay open. EMP’s decision to go fully plant-based follows some of the more successful reopenings from restaurants such as Xilonen and Fat Choy, two restaurants whose renewed vision of meatless cooking saw success and positive consumer reactions.
EMP will reopen its doors for five nights a week starting June 10th. The fine-dining giant will showcase its new menu for dinner service, leaving behind its lunch service while the restaurant acclimates to its new menu. The new menu will cost $335 per customer according to a restaurant spokesperson, and Humm ensures that the food will both change the world and impress its diners.
“I believe that if the meal is delicious, we don’t need to worry about [the menu change],” Humm told NPR. “I think people will buy into it. I think if we want to really push the envelope, this is the place where we have to do it.”